Kukës is a small town in northeastern Albania, last one to the Kosovo border.
Kukës is the only town in the world that has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. It received this honour in 2000 for receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Kosovo War.
- 1 Ish Hotel Parku (unofficial "bus station"). In Kukës there is no bus station but the buses depart and arrive at former "Hotel Parku".
A very helpful webpage to find connections is Gjirafa.
Access to Kukës is made via several entry points:
- A1 connects Kukës with Tirana and Pristina (toll road).
- SH23 connects Kukës with Krumë, Bajram Curri towards the north and also Gjakova.
- SH31 connects Kukës with Peshkopi towards the south and also Debar.
- SH26 connects Kukës with Shishtavec where there is another border crossing to Restelice and then from there you can reach Mavrovo.
- SH5 is another alternative coming in Kukës via Pukë for more scenic travel.
- 2 Kukës International Airport (Aeroporti Ndërkombëtar i Kukësit Zayed-Flatrat e Veriut / KFZ IATA / ICAO: LAKU). An international airport 3.5 km (2.2 mi) south of the city of Kukës. As of June 2023, only Air Albania offers flights—between Basel and here, starting as low as 4,200 lek.
Streets have adequate tiled pavements, especially in the city centre. However, they are frequently uneven and potholed, and walking is further made difficult by parked cars, street vendors and cafes. Except for areas in the very centre, pavements rarely have slopes for wheelchair access or designated lanes for bicycle riders. Pedestrian crossings are numerous and are relatively respected by drivers.
Taxis are available taking Albanian lek and euro, but agree the price before you get in.
By rental car
Renting a car is possible, but not necessarily a good idea if you are not used to driving here. Be prepared for disorganized traffic.
- Europcar, Kukës International Airport, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Albania Airport Rent a Car, Kukës International Airport, ☏ , email@example.com.
- Rent a Car Mara, Kukës International Airport, ☏ .
- Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Kukës International Airport, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- AutoUnion, Kukës International Airport, ☏ , email@example.com.
- G Rentals, Kukës International Airport, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3 Elezi Agency Rent a Car, ☏ .
- The reservoir on 3 sides of Kukës is clear turquoise in colour. The bridges are worth seeing too.
- 1 The Bad Stairs. The canyon, known by the very interesting name, ‘The Bad Staris’ is a true wonder of nature and can be found near the village of Bicaj in Kukës – around a 30-minute car drive, or 3 hours hike. This canyon is a unique natural monument, with a 1,000-m depth and 3-m width. It can be seen with the naked eyes from the city centre and is one of the most sought-after tourist attractions that should definitely not be missed.
- 2 Gjallica Mountain. The Gjallica Mountain, around 2.489 m above sea level, offers an exceptionally stunning view, sitting stoically and watching over the entire city of Kukës. This mountain is so grand that it can be seen from anywhere in the city. It is the highest in the Kukës region and belongs to the Dinaric Alps. The limestone mountain is engulfed in forests and vegetation, mainly pines and beech. Gjallica is increasingly famous amongst alpinists but to organize a climbing or hiking trip, you need the help of local groups of experts and professionals.
- 3 Morning Stone (Guri i Mengjesit (Murga)). This sandy-rock formation, found in southern Shishtavec is on the list of Albanian natural monuments. This stone, easily visible on the horizon, used to be a reference point since antiquity and the reason behind the name is the fact that during sunrise, the sun's rays create a crown around the structure. It is found at a 1,900 m asl. For quite some time now, it has turned into a must for visitors coming from all over the world. Horse riding has been a widely practised activity in this area since a long time ago and it continues to this day.
- 4 Lake of Fierza (Liqeni Kukësit). The artificial lake of Fierza was created on the banks of the Drin river back in 1978, in order to serve the hydropower dam of Fierza. The lake also serves as a junction connecting citizens of Kukës, Tropoja, Has and Puka. The amazing landscape at all seasons and times of the year has to be on your must-see list while in Kukës. An interesting fact about Fierza Lake is the fact that underneath the water, lies the old city of Kukës, which was flooded because of the construction of the dam and had to be rebuilt on the hills nearby. Amid the alpine climate, horseback riding, traditional food and customs, but also its natural beauties like the mountains, the lake, the canyons, its forests and many valleys, Kukës has just started to gain momentum and become a favourite amongst tourists, so don’t miss out on this beautiful northern city that has a great potential to become a regional centre of tourism for all nature and adventure lovers.
- Trail of Colors. Part of rural tourism is also this area called the “Trail of Colors”, as this trail offers an incredible landscape, especially in the summer season, when many multicoloured flowers bloom across the alpine meadows of Kukës. This place is found close to the border connecting Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia, and starts from the “Çaja” mountain, stretching all the way to the valley of Korab. Even though there are many connecting entry points, this is generally a 7-hour-long hike, during which the group can visit natural monuments like the “Gryka e Vanave”, the Waterfall of Bel or even the lake of Kallabak. If you love long hikes and the fresh mountain air, don’t miss out on this amazing experience and breath in all the splendours Kukës has to offer!
- 5 Vana Gorge (Gryka e Vanave). Vana’s Gorge is a deep gorge between Koritnik Mountain and Gjallica Mountain in Kukës, created by the erosion of rocks from Lumë, part of the Korab-Koritnik National Park.
- 6 Kukës Museum. Positioned in the centre of the city, it is a modest building. In it, you will find comprehensive information about history, ethnography and biodiversity. The museum is divided into three pavilions: Biodiversity, Archeology and Ethnography.
- 7 Peca Castle (Kalaja e Peces, Keshtjella e Peces). In the fortification system of the White Drini River, along the ancient route of Gabuleo Theranda is located one of the most important centres of antiques, Pece, which originated in 6th and 5th centuries BC. The settlement was surrounded by walls in 4th to 2nd centuries BC, which are characteristic of these towns in this period, bringing simultaneously together with Rosuja (Tropoje) the first centres that were simultaneously associated in time with the Dardan Kingdom. While at the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century. Pece is refortified again, but with a larger surface area, winning an important strategic and military role in the basin of White Drini River - a thing that begins to lose later in the 9th to 11th centuries. Over the 4th to 6th centuries. Peca was completed with dwellings, towers, various terraces, a church, etc. The surrounding walls include a circumference of 445 m with an area of 1 ha. It is believed that the Castle of Pece can be identified with the name of a castle rebuilt by Emperor Justinian in Dardani, called PENTZA.
- 8 Dilapidated Hotel (Turizmi i Ri). Described as one of the most beautiful tourist facilities in the country, the former hotel "Turizmi i ri" has been completely destroyed. Abandoned and left to the mercy of fate for years, this building, day by day, is going to the last limit of its existence. This place was once frequented by the citizens of Kukës, who remember it and feel sorry for the destruction of this property. The former hotel was built in 1988, on a hill dominating the city and is surrounded on three sides by the waters of Lake Fierza. By citizens and tourists, the hotel was used for only 6 years to give way, then, to total destruction.
- 9 Kukës Arena (Zeqir Ymeri). The Kukës Arena is primarily used for football matches and it is the home ground of Kategoria Superiore club FK Kukësi. The stadium was built on the site of the previous Përparimi Stadium, near the centre of Kukës on Rruga Stadiumi (Stadium Road). FK Kukësi is a professional Albanian football club that plays its home matches at the Kukës Arena and competes in the Albanian Super League (as of 2022), which is the highest level of Albanian football.
- 10 Kukës Radio (Radio Kukësi). "Kukësi speaks to you...." This sound signal that spread on October 16, 1959, from four loudspeakers, which hung in the trees of the old town of Kukës, opened the way for a radio, which in its long life would become a legend of information in the Albanian language. The same sound signal still accompanies the mornings of thousands of listeners, for more than 60 years. This radio affirmed the values of preserving the national sense of language, culture and history, especially among the Albanians outside the borders, in Kosovo and Macedonia, for whom this radio station was established, which would later be identified with the city of Kukës itself. In the small town, people who had never listened to the radio before were surprised when the wave of Radio Kukës came from the speakers in their hearths, which became an inseparable part of their lives. The beginning was quite natural. An improvised program, a tribune where ex-president Haxhi Lleshi climbs, to cut the ribbon was the day of the launch of this radio, which was the second in the country, in terms of importance and number of listeners, after Radio Tirana. The city and the district of Kukës have their life on this radio, from 1959 until today.
- 11 Underground City Kukës, ☏ . Fewer people may have heard about the underground city. This one was constructed under the foundations of the new city as a shelter from potential attacks during the communist period in Albania. Designed to be a full-fledged city, the underground Kukës was meant to include a hospital, government offices, army quarters and residential areas. The tunnels that run through this underground space have several entryways, located in different neighbourhoods scattered throughout the town. Constructed by the state during the Communist regime, the city is located 30 m below ground level, accessed by spiralled staircases.
Rockclimbing and mountaineering
- (Take the road following the Lumes River running west to east, beginning just north of Kukës on the road to Kosovo right after the reservoir bridge. This road cuts along the northern bank of the gorge. After a preliminary set of broken karst hillsides, two tunnels through limestone formations reaching down the south face across the roadway marks the most distinctive landmarks in the gorge. The first tunnel is .75 km from the bridge, the second is 2 km past the first, and two subsequent markings are constituted by the only Hoxha bunker along the road 1 km from the second tunnel (with the number 39 painted on it in red), and the visible serpentine formations at the base of the South-East Buttress 1 km further at the west entrance to the gorge.). The Lumes River gorge divides Mt. Gjallica from Mt. Koritnik, and may offer some of the best overall rock climbing in all of Albania. This gorge offers a tremendous amount of rock climbing in all classes of difficulty and in all grades between I & IV. The climbing possibilities arise from the multiple ridges of limestone and faces formed between and on the sides of these ridges, rising in fins, pinnacles, and crags. The single largest formation is the ridge of Koritnik, running 1,000 m up to a 1,352-m subsidiary peak called Koritnik Peak.
- 1 Bicaj Gorge (The gorge can be accessed, always with difficulty, three ways: (1) via the entrance by going down through a few farmer's fields from the village of Mustafe, (2) from this village up along the steep goat path over the southern lip of the gorges precipices towards the village of Tershane, or (3) from the Mt. Kolosjan road downwards past Tershane into the gorge.). 8 km south of Kukës on the road to Peshkopi, a sharp gorge following the Tershanes creek cuts dramatically through the lower south shoulder of Mt. Gjallica just above the Town of Bicaj. Behind the two-story white school building, a road lead ½ km to the hamlet of Mustafe. Very steep lines run up both sides of the sharp keyhole cut in the side of the mountain, while above longer and steeper lines run 150 m or more up the limestone ridge behind the keyhole entrance to the gorge and in the amphitheatre cut into the side of Gjallica behind.
- Kolosjan, Bushtrice and Tejdrine (South the Bicaj Gorge on the road past Bicaj Town, a series of crags rear up in the vicinity of the mountain villages of Kolosjan, Bushtrice, and Tejdrine. Kolosjan lies on the main road to Peshkopi 15 km south ofKukës, and the turn-off left to Lusen and Bushtrice is 2 km further down the road. The three Kolosjan Crags appear on the shoulders of Mt. Kolosjan (2050 m) along the road to Bushtrice. After the third crag, the road turns up the side of a canyon towards Bushtrice. Before this road drops down into Bushtrice Canyon, there are several crags that are visible and can be reached from the tiny hamlet of Lusen on the north side of Bushtrice Canyon. Follow the aquaduct from Lusen in direction of these crags. Several large pillars and comers drop right into the creek of Bushtrice Gorge, and these can be reached by following the road down to Bushtrice, from which the road leads later up to Radomir and Mt Korabi following the tum off just past the canyon to the right. The left turn leads up past the series of Bushtrice pillars rising above up the Bushtrice canyon on its left-hand hillside to Fshat and the Fshat Wall in the other.). Throughout this area, the climbing can excellent. The vast scars caused by the faces of Kolosjan Crags 1 & 2 offer routes along both sides, as well as overhang crack and boulder problems of all sizes, while the south side of both crags offer multi-pitch ascents of varying fifth-class difficulty. Kolosjan Crag 3 drops to the side of the hill to Lusen, where a series of difficult and steep faces rise right from the road cut, with a palisade of varying limestone pillars rising above. The main path of ascent is a striking 5.5 route that begins at the detached pillars to the right of these slabs by following the main angular cut in the face from right to left, following that forming some five pitches, and finishing with a harrowing traverse over a sluice gulley of shattered overhanging limestone at the top of the crag. Left of this, several fourth class options follow right of the shattered gully, and to the right, a manifold of moderate and difficult fifth class routes are evident beyond the two pillars at the base of the first scree piles.
- 2 Fshat Wall (Up the road from the Bustrice gorge routes, a steep and harrowing mountain passage with massive drops into the gorge below leads, after 5 km, up to the village of Fshat. The bluffs of the Bustrice gorge rise up on the mountainside directly north, with the same formation developing into the 200–300-m limestone formations above the mountain hamlet of Fshat. The large upper bluffs can be reached via Lusen, while the lower is approached via the gorge.). Lusen and Fshat are connected by a 2-hr goat trail leading along the base of the main Fshat wall, and providing a convenient means of descent from the crags all along the 4-km walk up the Bustrice gorge to Fshat. The rock in this gorge is of mixed quality, with the most noteworthy feature being the large funnel, chimney and crack systems that make great incisions down the overhanging limestone faces.
- Brekijë - Tershene - Bicaj Trail (Brekije to Bicaj is a very beautiful day hike between villages and through the Bicaj Canyon. There are so beautiful views from this trail, starting from green fields, isolated villages, the high mountain of Gjallica, and the Canyon of Bicaj. In the village of Brekije, you start ascending and passing the village through some beautiful fields. After the fields, you will go into a forest, where the trail is quite visible. When passing the trail, some mountain huts will be there, which are used by local shepherds during the summertime. From there, you can see the beautiful ridge of the Gjallica mountain standing in front of you.).
- Gjallice - Mustafe Trail (From Mustafe village of Bicaj municipality of Kukës to the top of mount Gjallica (2,468 m). The path is long but very beautiful. The people you meet on the road will help you with directions and will invite to their home for a drink or to sleep there.).
- Gjallica Summit Hike. A pleasant hike from a campsite at 1,700 m altitude to the summit of Gjallica - the imposing and most prominent mountain near Kukës.
- Buzmadhe-Kroi i Bardhe-liqeni Kallabakut-Guri i Mengjesit (Shishtavec) Trail (The path passes on the edge of the beech forests above Buzmadhe, the alpine pastures from Kroi i Bardhë 1,779 m above sea level, between the beech forests and the "Meshtekna e Shishtaveci" nature monument, it continues in the panoramic part, the Novosejt lake enters the Shishtavec Beech forests at an altitude of 1,451 m and continues again in the alpine pastures to Guri i Mengjesit at an altitude of 1,947 m above sea level.).
- The locals love to shoot pool in various local establishments found along the Rruga Xhamia off the main road.
- Swimming in the reservoir in the summer heatwave days is the local way to cool off.
- There are rafting opportunities to the south of Kukës in the Drin run.
- Summer Day is celebrated throughout the region on March 14
- Saint George's Day is celebrated in the first half of May, which celebrates the end of winter and the arrival of the spring season.
- Runa is celebrated in Malzi municipality on July 1 and is a pagan holiday where people pray for the power of the mountain.
- Gjallica is celebrated on the first Thursday of August and is a pagan holiday related to the protection of the mountain of Gjallica.
- Shearing, in the area of Terthore, on the second Thursday of September. It is a festival associated with sheep shearing.
- Dunmet is celebrated in Surroj on September 20 and is a holiday related to the return of cattle to family farms from summer pastures to mountain plateaus.
There are some interesting caches around this town to discover.
- Local Kukës produced raki kumbull (plum raki) and raki rrushi (grape raki) are good and available reasonably priced at the small supermarket beneath Bar Amerika on the street level.
- 1 Gift shop Kukës, ☏ .
- 2 Big Market.
- 3 Market Gërmizi.
- 4 Kovaçi shoes.
- Punime Artizanale “Ora”, ☏ , email@example.com. The Clock started in 1955 with the first small handicraft works (home works) with a staff of 3 people starting from the passion and desire to preserve the beautiful Albanian traditions. The Luma district is known for its handicrafts (sheaths and woollen sheaths), and they were accomplished with dedicated work by the ORA family, gaining wide coverage inside and outside of Albania.
On Rruga Dituria there are various offering among other things the local meatballs or roast chicken in buns and halal pizza.
- 1 Lugina e Drinit, SH23 (on the highway to Kosovo, on the right side, can't miss it), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00–22:00.
- 2 Bar - Restorant Kastrati, Rruga Kosova.
- 3 Kulla Lumes, SH23 (on the SH23 northwards from the city just before the bridge, on the right side, can't miss it), ☏ . Nice selection of seafood, grill foods from Albania and popular European cuisine, selection of wines and an excellent view of the reservoir lake. splurge.
- 4 Bar Restorant Natyra, SH23 (on the SH23 northwards from the city after the bridge, on the right side, you take the turn towards Gjinaj), ☏ . Great restaurant with an amazing view. Quiet location. Meat or fish dish available. Extremely friendly staff and lovely animals around. splurge.
- 5 Forest Bar & Restaurant- Brrut, Rruga Nacionale Kukës-Krume km 5 , Ndertesa 1, ☏ . splurge.
- 6 Xhamlliku, ☏ . Restaurant Xhamlliku is the ideal solution if you want to try the real taste of traditional cuisine.
- 7 Restorant Liman Zeneli, Rruga Dituria, ☏ .
- 8 Ura Drinit Zi. Enjoy the amazing food and the lake view. Ura Drinit Zit is located on a bridge side before you got to enter Kukës.
- 1 Grand JNK.
- 2 Heaven Shisha.
- 3 Bar Britania, ☏ .
- 4 Costa Coffee.
- 5 Bar Berlin Kukës.
- 6 Panorama Te Sula.
- 7 Sunset coffee.
- 8 Bar kafe Zabeli.
- 1 Hotel Gjallica, Rruga Dituria, Kukës (on main boulevard), ☏ , email@example.com. The most luxurious hotel in Kukës with its own restaurant and terrace.
- 2 Hotel Amerika, Lagjja Nr. 5, Kukës (at the corner of Rruga Dituria and Rruga Xhamia on the 2nd floor, near Albanian Post), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 10:00.
- 3 Oda Kuksit Hotel, Rruga e Drinit Lagjia nr.4 (take the first turn right from Rruga Xhamia (at the Western Union)), ☏ . A family-run hotel with a restaurant and terrace in the city center.
- 4 SuperPanorama GuestHouse, ☏ .
- 5 Hotel Emili, Lagjja 1, Rruga Dy Drinat, ☏ . You can book a month of resident living in Hotel Emili for around €300. Weirdly, this hotel in the old industrial area of Kukës i ri has UK-style electric sockets so you need to bring an adapter to use European style plugs with them.
See Albania#Connect. There is a Vodafone shop near where the furgons arrive and depart.
- Shishtavec – A village in Kukës County in eastern Albania that represents rich unique folklore, endless varieties of customs, traditions, stories, songs, legends and inspiring landscape.
- Albanian Alps – The main city of the area is Bajram Curri, the villages of Thethi, Valbonë and Kelmend are the main tourist destinations.
- Shkodra – The cultural center of northern Albania and Albanian Catholics.
- Tirana – The capital of Albania.
- Prizren – Ottoman-era town in Kosovo with Albanian, Serbian and Byzantine heritage.
- Gjakova – Take the Bajram Curri bound minivans which pass by Gjakova. This town has the largest Ottoman-era bazaar in the Balkans.
- Pristina – The capital of Kosovo.